After an evening meeting when I was done at about 7 pm today, I was feeling pretty lucky. You see if you are in advertising, and especially in servicing, it’s enough to celebrate if there is still some natural light in the sky by the time you leave for home. It was just that. Remains of the scorching sun, the same one we all (at least in this part of the world) pray to see a little less of. So ya, it wasn’t as late as usual and I was DONE. Awesome.
While I was hurriedly getting in an auto rickshaw I thought let me call those who I often miss calls of. For I’m always in meetings, briefings and or doing something I don’t like dropping. Like Facebook ;)Saw one from a client, called him back, and 2 from my mum. Decided to call her back. I instantly dialled 01128531619..and in that noisy traffic realised before I even heard a tone that the number no longer exists. The only number I associated with home no longer existed. The number that read – My home. My very own digits. Let’s go back a little..ok maybe a little more than little. :p
It was 1994. I was in the 6th standard and almost all my friends had a telephone. Today was going to be my day. I still remember how I could hardly wait in school, I told all my friends I was going to call them. Wrote their numbers down on the last page of my school diary, the one that said “Holiday Homework”. Finally it was time to go home. The journey back made funny bubbles burst inside my stomach.”I was going to have a phone!!! The one I could just call from. The one that rang for real. The one that will have a number. And for once I could tell my friends my number. Wow.” While I was busy imagining how my life was going to change, I realized I was home. The bus stopped, the sun didn’t feel so bad. The walk back home was one with a smile. I smiled at strangers. I think I even sang a little. Had my water bottle in my hand that I swung to and fro. It danced for me. My steps were like hops. I was happy.
Ringing the bell I waited for my mother to open the door. She came with a smile. Almost knowing what I was excited about. I didn’t even have to ask and she replied ” They will come anytime to fix it.” “Woweeee!!!” , I exclaimed in my head. I hate it when I miss things this important. I quickly finished lunch and couldn’t care to change my uniform. I stood on my toes in the balcony looking out for the most important people ever to visit me. Finally they did. There were two of them, I was glad they were prepared. They had wires and even 2 models to choose from. Honestly, I don’t remember what the difference in the two were but I remember crystal clear the looks of the one we finally chose. It was brown, slightly bulky, new and had a black key pad. It was simple, but back then it didn’t matter. What mattered really was what it did. Having a place already assigned it didn’t take us time to set it up. I even had a pen stand and note pad ready. Well, what if my friends had some important homework I missed? or vice versa? The gentlemen like any government workers did their work and took some ‘Diwali (read bribe)’ and left. They wrote down the number for us which I impatiently wrote on the display card attached underneath the handset. In my not so neat handwriting I wrote ” 5521619″ aaaaah..what a tune to it I imagined in my head.
One hour later I had called up all my friends (mothers of whom I actually ended up speaking to as it was nap time! bah!) and passed my digits. I think I might have dozed off next to it, yes in my uniform. Mum was understanding and not very strict. I slept with a smile that night and never felt shy of sharing the number. I have memories of many chats on it, where I would hold on while my friends took a leak and resumed gossiping about teachers/ TV stars or anyone for that matter. It was a different era.
School ended and I moved out of home. Somehow the digits also changed (as a part of whole government thing adding area codes etc) 5521619 became 28531619. Ok it was different but at least it had the 1619 attached. Not everything was different. That was still home.
College ended and I moved to another city, we all in the family got mobile phones but 28531619 remained. I knew exactly how things looked when I called those digits. I knew where it was kept, I knew how mum, dad or brother sat while they spoke. I might be taking it a bit far but I felt I was there. At home.
New job, moved cities again, now every single one had a mobile (even mum who earlier didn’t), numbers of which are saved in my mobile. And then there is 28531619. The number saved as HOME.
Got married, moved further away (geographically), spoke less often. Never really wrote. Visited rarely. Messaged a few times. But I knew no matter where I was, there were these 8 magical digits that connected me to where I belong. Nothing seems new. Nothing.
Last month I did that same old thing I love doing very randomly. Just dial the number and see who answers it and then speak. It’s just something I like doing. There was no ring. No tone.
I knew it was over. Mum had been complaining how useless that line was. I hoped they wouldn’t do it. Know my dad understood. But Mum, she was practical. She got it disconnected. I felt a strange something. A feeling of loss. A feeling of no connect. I knew I could talk but it’s not the same.
So today, purely out of impulse I take out my cell phone and dial the digits. Before it’s even time I realize they no longer exist. I take a moment before I search my phone directory for my family’s number. It’s not the same. I need to ask where they are, and then picture. I wonder what that pen stand does? Is it even there? How does my home look now? I know I can’t rely on imagination. The bulky brown phone without fancy memory and flash buttons is no more there. 5521619 changed to 8531619 long ago. But the line died now.
There is a callertune that I hear now, maybe it’s time to move on.
So long 5521619. You will never be forgotten, my favourite 8 digits. 8 very special digits.